First post-WrestleMania 32 PPV for WWE and I think it’s fair to say that after the lackluster show they put us through on April 4 (and I’m being kind here) WWE needs to come back with something good. And, it must be said, it seems that’s exactly what they’re planning to do. On paper at least, this show does looks very promising for once, so let’s take a look at the announced matches:
WWE United States Championship Match – Kalisto (c) vs Ryback:
Can’t help but laugh at this one, because the most notable thing about this particular “feud” has been Ryback complaining about being on the WM pre-show in recent interviews. And now, at Payback, guess who’s on the pre-show again? Right. While Ryback did have a point, if you care about your titles, they should indeed be defended on the actual show, I can hardly get exited about this match since, well, not much has been done to make me care about it. Those two had a decent match at WM so I guess that’s about as much as can be expected here. As for the winner, I think it’s safe to say Ryback didn’t make any friends in the office with his complaints so I can see Kalisto retaining here. And yes, Kalisto’s continued reign might be seen as pointless by some but so would a Ryback win at this point, simply because the US title and this whole feud has been rather pointless. So, if you’re WWE, wouldn’t you chose for the one guy who doesn’t complain in this situation? Not that it matters really, but still…
Dolph Ziggler vs Baron Corbin:
The fact this match (and feud) is happening says a lot about not only the way WWE sees Corbin but also how Ziggler’s place in the promotion. Ever since Corbin’s first push in NXT, we all knew it was only a matter of time before he would appear on the main roster and receive a push there. Most of us didn’t like it, but, Corbin is the type of guy WWE likes to push so it was inevitable. Ziggler has become WWE’s go-to guy whenever they need a someone to put another wrestler over. In other words, it’s his role to make others look good. Could more have been done with Ziggler in the past? Certainly, but that’s irrelevant, I doubt there is any turning back for Ziggler now, even his fans seem to have accepted this has become his role in the promotion. Which brings us to this match. Some efforts have been made to build this up somewhat, which is always to the good, but, this match is about one thing and one thing only, having Ziggler make Corbin look good. Like it, hate it, but that’s how it is. I have no doubt Ziggler will be up to the task, especially since Corbin has proven in the past he can be carried to a good match. As for The Lone Wolf’s future, well as long as they keep him in an heel role I guess he’ll be fine. I’m not sure we will be, but that’s another debate.
Winner: Baron Corbin
#1 Contender match for the WWE Tag Team Championship – Colin Cassidy and Enzo Amore vs The Vaudevillains (Aiden English And Simon Gotch):
While WWE’s most recent tag team tournament hasn’t given us much in terms of good matches, it HAS accomplished its mission by introducing the main roster’s two newest tag team to the “larger” audience. Therefore, this final is not only the logical one but could also deliver that one, good match we were looking for. Add to that Gallows and Anderson and The New Day and we might have, once again, a tag team division worth watching. But first things first, what to do with this match? Anyone familiar with NXT knows this should be an entertaining as both teams have proven before they can deliver in the ring. So, the main question becomes, who benefits most by winning? And there I would go for what is probably the less popular choice, The Vaudevillains. Enzo and Cass have been a hit already, effortlessly involving every crowd in their entertaining pre-match shtick. This also means the Vaudevllains are the team that really needs to be established as the dastardly, old-school heels here, and what better way to achieve that than with a tainted victory. There are many ways to go about this, a sneak-win, the introduction of a enforcer/manager/valet (which would play nicely into any future match against he new day), and, well, basically anything you can think of to give the Vaudevillains the win while still protecting Enzo and Cass. After that, you proceed to a classic Face/heel feud between the Vaudevillains and The New Day with Enzo and Cass ready to jump in at a moments notice. Sometimes in wrestling, its not about who we want to win but about who needs to win. And, in this case, that’s the Vaudevillains.
Winner: The Vaudevillains
WWE Women’s Championship match – Charlotte (c) with Ric Flair vs Natalya with Bret Hart:
In other circumstances, this is where I would treat you guys to yet another Metalhead’s rant about old geezers taking the spotlight from younger, more deserving talent. But, for once, the presence of Bret and Ric actually makes sense to me. Indeed, ever since the so-called Divas revolution started and people were wondering why Natalya wasn’t part of it, some (me amongst them) have been suggesting a Harts vs Flair feud, simply because its a good story to tell. The fact that Ric and Bret aren’t exactly the best friends in real life, and that they will let all know about it, is a bonus of course. So, indeed, let them stand in Natalya’s and Charlotte’s corner, let them encourage their protegees, let them rekindle their feud one last time through their daughter/niece. As I said, it’s a good story. But after that, please let them go back to whatever it is they were doing and, if they really need to continue feuding with each-other, let them have chess-matches on some retirement home’s patio or something. Or Wheel-chair races as Bret humorously suggested. Whatever happens, this should be a good match and give Natalya a well-deserved opportunity to shine. Can she win it? Well, I wouldn’t discount it, especially since Bret can indeed counter Ric’s shenanigans. It can also be we have a surprise run-in, in the form of a very talented gall who has mysteriously disappeared in recent weeks, you know the one, and it would indeed be a BOSS thing to do. So I’m going for a Hart win here, not only would it give Charlotte a reason to ditch Ric (yes please!) but it could be an excuse to re-introduce Sasha banks without having to rush the eventual showdown between Sahsa and Charlotte (Summerslam match?). Looking forward to this one.
Sami Zayn vs Kevin Owens:
While there have been some improvements on RAW in recent weeks, there are still very basics booking mistakes here and there. Case in point, if you’re gonna do Zayn/Owens and Ambrose/Jericho feuds, why oh why do you then have Zayn and Owens lose to Jericho and Ambrose? I mean, do they WANT to create the impression that one feud is less important than the other? Some things never change I guess. Anyway, WWE did redeem itself somewhat on this week’s RAW by presenting a very well-done video-package, re-telling the Zayn/Owens story for a “larger” audience. And, it’s quite a story. This match is nothing less than what is commonly called a grudge match in wrestling terms. So I do hope these two will be getting some time and freedom to put forth the awesome match we all KNOW they can produce. As for the winner, very difficult to predict. I guess they could go for another inconclusive finish, just to prolong the feud. Or, if the rumors of Owens being included in the WWE Title chase are true, this could be a big one for him to win. But, if that happens, I do hope they still have a plan for Zayn, because it would be a shame not to do something with such an amazing talent who effortlessly connects with the crowds. Then again, given Zayn’s aforementioned popularity, a win here would give HIM the necessary momentum to be inserted in the WWE title picture. Zayn/ Styles, hell even Zayn/Reigns could make for quite a spectacle. So I honestly don’t know. I asked the cats, and, by show of paws, they went for…
Winner: Kevin Owens
Dean Ambrose vs Chris Jericho:
Amusingly, while I do think WWE has attempted to present Ambrose/Jericho as “more important” than Zayn/Ambrose (probably because Jericho is involved) fans do seem to buzz more about the latter than the former. The reason for that is that, as mentioned above, there is a grudge between Zayn and Owens, while the Ambrose/Jericho feud seems more about giving those two something to do. I’m guessing whomever wins here will be next in line for a shot at the WWE title, so, if AJ wins the main event, they could go for Jericho here (since Jericho won at WM). But I think that would be a mistake. Whatever happens in the man event, Jericho doesn’t NEED to win here, even if he loses, he can still say he beat the new Champ (assuming that happens) at WM, which is more than enough reason for yet another Styles/Jericho match if WWE really wnats that. Ambrose on the other hand has been losing every big PPV he’s been in since the Royal Rumble. And while he’s still very popular, there comes a point where WWE has to let him win one, or run the risk of having the fans just give up on him (like happened with Ziggler).There is nothing wrong with an Ambrose win here, on the contrary. A win for the “Lunatic Fringe” would give him the necessary momentum to be inserted in the WWE title chase and, whomever wins the Main Event, Ambrose will have reasons to go after him. In my opinion, a Jericho win would mean nothing, an Ambrose win so much more. I can only hope WWE has realized that as well…
Winner: Dean Ambrose
WWE Intercontinental Championship Match – The Miz (c) with Maryse vs Cesaro:
After Zach Ryder’s fifteen minutes of fame (almost liberally this time) it was time for Miz and Maryse to step up to the plate, and, while I wasn’t very optimistic about that particular prospect at first, I must say they did deliver. Big time. And yes CB, you can now gloat and say: I told you so. I must admit that Miz and Maryse have been gloriously obnoxious in their role and that Maryse (whom I barely remembered) has been playing a spectacular bitch in some segments (and I say this in the best way possible). So while in normal time I would always root for Cesaro going over The Miz, in this case, I actually wouldn’t mind Miz retaining. Just to see some more of those segments. Then again, “The Swiss Superman” has been pushed to the forefront since his return, as received his long-awaited Cesaro section T-shirt and has also been rather entertaining with his James Bond like appearances. So this is another one where it could go both ways, but, I’m guessing this is only the first chapter of a prolonged feud between those two. And why not? If it works, run with it.
WWE World heavyweight Championship Match – Roman Reigns (c) vs A. J. Styles:
Wow. WWE actually has me interested in a Roman Reigns Main Event. Never thought I would see the day. But credit where credit is due, what was first thought of as simply WWE throwing AJ at Reigns so Reigns would have a good match has become a rather intriguing storyline also involving Anderson and Gallows. And while the “Are they in cahoots or not” storyline is nothing new, when done correctly, it almost always make for interesting television. Since this is perhaps the most unpredictable WWE main event in quite some time, let’s have a look at the various possibilities:
1 – Nothing happens, Reigns win: Obviously the least interesting development since it would achieve nothing expect intensify the backlash against Reigns. But hey maybe Vince finds those Boo’s pleasant or something.
2 – Nothing happens, Styles wins: Also very unlikely. Not that I wouldn’t like this possibility but, well, you know it won’t happen.
3 – Anderson and Gallows intervene on Styles’ behalf, Reigns smashes trough everyone anyway and retains: This is WWE so you KNOW we can’t discount this one out of hand. Of course, this would be much like number 1, except probably even worse. Even WWE must have realized the “babyface overcoming all odds” just doesn’t work with Reigns, right? Right???
4 – Anderson and Gallows intervene on Styles’ behalf, Reigns retains via DQ: Could happen I guess, certainly if they want to continue the intrigue. They then can have Styles claim he never asked for Anderson and Gallows to intervene and we’re back to square one. If WWE feels the storyline works like that, they might indeed be tempted by this, as it would automatically extend the status quo until the next PPV. Not my favorite option, but I’m not WWE…
5 – Anderson and Gallows intervene on Styles’ behalf, Styles wins and is the new WWE champion: Also a way to extend the feud and they can still go both ways here. Either Styles, Anderson and Gallows then form WWE’s version of the Bullet Club or Styles can still claim he didn’t know what was going to happen, immediately grant Reigns a re-match and the plot then can thicken as much as WWE wants it too. The problem with the first option is, fans will probably cheer for Reigns, Anderson and Gallows and laugh at Reigns, which I don’t think is something WWE would want. Second option is possible since, except for the title change, it kinda of keeps the same players in place until the next PPV. And you know WWE likes doing that in between PPV.
6 – Anderson and Gallows intervene on Reigns’ behalf, Reigns retains and turns heel: This option has been speculated about ever since Anderson and Gallows first appear on RAW and while it does seem to make little sense at first glance, mainly because Anderson, Gallows and reigns have no history or common goals, it isn’t perhaps far-fetched when you think about it. The simple fact is, if WWE is gonna turn Reigns heel, it’s now or never. They have the build-in intrigue with the involvement of Anderson and Gallows AND the Vince/Shane/Steph announcement top play with. In other words, more than enough room to play with and launch various double-cross/swerves and whatnot at our unsuspecting selves. A super-stable with a heel champion that WILL get boo-ed passionately, Anderson and Gallows as very believable enforcers, and, for example, Shane as mastermind behind it… Well sounds better than anything WWE has come up with in recent times.
7 – Anderson and gallows intervene, destroy both AJ and Roman, match ends in a no-contest (Reigns retains) Finn Balor is revealed as the new leader of Balor Club on RAW: Another much-speculated about possibility, and one not without merit. You get an instant new challenger, with a new major force within WWE and you still have the Reigns/Styles option to continue with since there was no winner. Not sure WWE has THAt much trust in Balor’s abilities to sell this, but, hey, I’ve been wrong before.
And now is the time I have to reveal my pick isn’t it? Well, I hesitate between 4 and 6 and will opt for six simply because I deem it a bit too convenient WWE has chosen the PPV to make the Shane/Vince/Steph announcement. Something’s up I can smell it.
Winner: The New and Evil Roman Empire.
Conclusion: Well as far as WWE B-shows go, this is, on paper, the best WWE has proposed in quite some time. Good stories, mostly matches that have a reason to happen, grudges, inrigue in the main event, they’re spoiling us for once. 0f course, this is only half the battle. I have no doubt the wrestlers will work their asses off to entertain us, they always do. Now, if only WWE creative can finally come together and back-up those efforts with some good booking… Well, we’ll know on Sunday.
Tags: AJ Styles, Baron Corbin, Bret Hart, Cesaro, charlotte, Chris Jericho, dean ambrose, Dolph Ziggler, Enzo and Cass, Kalisto Ryback, Kevin Owens, Maryse, Natalya, Payback, Ric Flair, Roman Reigns, sami zayn, The Miz, The Vaudevillains